Sexton ready for ‘intense’ All Blacks challenge

Johnny Sexton 5/11/2021
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is gearing up for his 14th test match against New Zealand this Saturday in Dublin.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is gearing up for his 14th test match against New Zealand this Saturday in Dublin.

The Leinster fly-half enjoyed his 100th cap for Ireland last Saturday, scoring in a 60-5 win over Japan in Dublin last Saturday.

Ireland were defeated by the All Blacks in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but the last time Ian Foster’s side visited Dublin, they suffered their first defeat on Irish Soil in a famous 16-9 win for the Men in Green.

In fact, since 2016, Ireland and New Zealand have met four times, with Ireland winning two and New Zealand winning two, showing just how big Saturday’s game is going to be.

Sexton was pleased with how Ireland began their campaign against the Brave Blossoms but is wary of the step up his side will need against the All Blacks.

He said: “It was important to start on a good note, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves last week, to not be sitting in here today or yesterday, we made sure we that we prepared properly with the limited time that we had.

“I think now that the coaches have been in place for a couple of years or 18 months, that they were starting to get used to the systems and stuff like that, and we were able to hit the ground running.

“At the same time, we saw a few things in the game that the All Blacks might have seen, and we need to brush up on a few things to make sure we’re ready to face the best team in the world on Saturday.”

Sexton has played New Zealand 13 times in the Ireland and British and Irish Lions jerseys, winning three of those 13.

When asked what makes New Zealand that much better than other sides, he said: “I think it’s the intensity that they bring to the game, the physicality. By intensity I mean the speed they play at and at the same time being physical.

“We know what’s coming because we’ve played against them so many times, but there’s a few lads that haven’t played against them that we have to kind of fill them in and let them know what it’s like out there against them.

“All the focuses are on making sure we can get the best performance out there at the weekend, we know what quality they possess, we know their coaches quite well obviously having been coached by Greg Feek and John Plumtree before.”

New Zealand regained their World number one status following their successful Rugby Championship campaign but did suffer defeat against the Springboks in the final match of the competition, which saw them briefly drop back down to No.2.

“We know the strengths that they’re going to bring, so we’ve just got to make sure that we’re in the best place possible come Saturday,” said the 36-year-old.